by Stephen Mosher Mar. 26, 2023
Diane D'Angelo Lands Happily at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in DESTINATION MOON
Renowned cabaret artist Diane D'Angelo made her long-awaited return to the nightclub stage with her first post-lockdown show DESTINATION MOON, and although the moon (as D'Angelo details in her dialogue) is one of the few places to which she has never traveled, on March 22nd, the destination for the rest of the cabaret industry was the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Everyone has been waiting for the Diane D'Angelo show and everyone showed up. Everywhere you looked, you could see a respected artist from the industry. Award nominees and winners alike filled the 42nd Street venue, and their enthusiastic response to each of Diane's musical numbers and, indeed, the entire show was a strong indication that she has been missed, that she is welcome back, and that her show is good. What a nice way to make a return.
After a long hiatus, beloved cabaret artist Diane D'Angelo has returned to the nightclub stage.
For her return to the cabaret stage, Ms. D'Angelo has gathered around her respected colleagues with whom she has long relationships, and, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. With prolific proficient Lina Koutrakos in the Director's chair and the Gregory Toroian Trio (Toroian on piano, Skip Ward on bass, and David Silliman on drums) providing impressive and impeccable accompaniment, D'Angelo comes out swinging, and she connects. She connects to the lyrics, she connects to the arrangements, she connects to the audience. D'Angelo is a skilled vocalist, but it's more than the vocals that give her the reputation she has earned. There is not one number in her show that does not put on display acting choices both solid and interesting, even when the arrangement around which a song has been structured is one of Mr. Toroian's well-documented jazz treatments. Indeed, for the first few numbers of Destination Moon, there is every indication that this is going to be a jazz set, which would be fine because Diane D'Angelo understands Toroian's musical vocabulary. Some singers may find themselves behind the 8 ball with such intricate jazz arrangements, but the combination of D'Angelo and a Toroian treatment is as strong as Dionne Warwick singing Burt Bacharach. Obviously, a full jazz set would have been an enjoyable night of music... except that isn't what Diane D'Angelo had in mind.
In a series of monologues ranging on topics from the love of travel to dating during the age in which we live to being inspired by a legendary singer, Diane D'Angelo has crafted a program reminiscent of a musical tasting menu. The variety of life stories is matched equally by the different genres of music being presented, from some torchy Porter ( an intriguing "Love For Sale") to some bluesy Marcovicci ( a fun "My Man's Ridin' in the Moonlight") and back around to some bona fide Broadway ( a moving "Omar Sharif"). When it is appropriate and artistically sound, the arrangements are jazz-based, but when authentic to the moment, the performances are allowed an opportunity to stand on their own, needing no more than what the authors provided and Diane created, like one of the evening highlights, a gorgeous rendition of "Will Someone Ever Look At Me That Way" that stepped well out of the shadow of the legendary lady who, first, sang the song, without embellishment. With absolute confidence and enviable stage presence, Diane D'Angelo commands the stage and every musical offering, whatever the originating genre, as evidenced by a sexy performance of Corinne Bailey Rae's "Like A Star" that stood out from every other musical presentation in the show as being different, as being individual, as being special. There is much to be admired about Destination Moon. It was a fine and fair evening of cabaret storytelling, save for one bizarre moment when Ms. D'Angelo lost her way in her script (which happens to everyone) and Musical Director Toroian appeared to refuse her plea for assistance, referencing that he had to "fix everything." If it was a joke, it didn't land. If it wasn't a joke, it was an uncomfortable exchange that didn't only eclipse the moment that directly preceded it (a stunning musical tribute to the late Rick Jensen), it stole attention away from Mr. Toroian's work as arranger and pianist, which had, previously, been the primary quality of his presence on the stage. One hopes that a staff meeting between the Destination Moon creatives might help prevent a similarly awkward display during future performances of the praise-worthy musical cabaret.
Bart Greenberg | April 14, 2023
Particularly praiseworthy is Diane D'Angelo herself, who refers to herself as "seasoned" in a charming joke about her age, but this seasoning is more than that which a person acquires with tenure - the world travel, the people she has known, the experiences she has had, the experiences on stage that she has had - all of it adds seasoning, which is why the degree of Diane's abilities as a storyteller is so high. The voice is a delicate soprano voice that inspires emotions and empathy, but even in its delicacy, this is not a weak voice. This is not a tentative voice. This is a strong, confident, empowered voice belonging to a strong, confident, empowered storyteller that knows the right and proper structure of theatrical presentation. Whether serving sultry on a playful "When In Rome" or cracking open the heart with "Calling You," there is not a flicker across D'Angelo's face that reads false, there is not a quiver in her voice that reads manufactured, and there exists acting in even the most complex of the Toroian jazz arrangements - something not every singer could pull off. But Diane D'Angelo is not just every singer. In Destination Moon, Diane D'Angelo says "I want to taste the world." You don't become this good a musical storyteller without already having tasted the world. Now, it is her clear mission to bring that world to her audience, and, that, she most definitely does.
During her new show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, Diane D’Angelo mentioned that she likes confidence. That is one attribute that she clearly has in abundance. She took the stage and took the audience on a voyage to places that figure importantly in her life and are even more importantly to her emotional landscape. Under the invaluable assistance of tour guide/director Lina Koutrakos, it was a journey worth taking. She started with a surprisingly soft and dreamy version of “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” sung in her pure soprano. What followed was a stream of standards often presented in unique arrangements created by some of the best in the business: Christopher Denny, Beckie Menzie, Tedd Firth, and her music director/pianist Gregory Toroian.
D’Angelo delivered the title number with just a hint of Peggy Lee, not in Lee’s voice but in her style as she played with the melody. She is aware that she has no need to push; she’s got it the chops and she showed that she knows it, which helps the audience to relax and enjoy the show. Her delivery of “Rules of the Road” was rueful, reflecting the point of view of a lady who has done it all and has kept on going. She followed that with a witty “When in Rome (I Do as the Romans Do),” and she found all the healthy sexuality in the lyrics. After that came a devastating “Love for Sale,” in which she seemingly channeled her inner Marilyn Monroe as she created a complete one-act play about a lost soul. The teasing romance of the Gershwins’ “Isn’t It a Pity,” presented in a light and lively manner, gave the diva a way to share another view of love.
In addition to Toroian, D’Angelo received excellent support throughout from Skip Ward on bass and David Silliman on drums. Numbers such as “Detour Ahead” and “It Isn’t So Good It Couldn’t Be Better (It Isn’t So Bad It Couldn’t Be Worse)” gave them opportunities to show their skills. But it was the diva herself who dominated the show with her wit in “If I Were a Bell” and her passion in “Live for Life.” All in all, it was a splendid evening at the cabaret.